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This Little Underground

Our local music columnist checks out Band of Skulls, the Swamp Abyss Sorcery Fest, Langhorne Slim and the Law and more

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I've been impressed by Atlanta's Ponderosa many times, but their latest show (Oct. 7, The Social) was my first time seeing them since their dramatic reboot from a mighty but literal Southern rock band to a more abstract folk rock band. The transformation is in full, magnificent effect. And though it sounds like an impossibility, Ponderosa is now like Fleet Foxes with balls. What was dreamily atmospheric on their recent watershed record (Pool Party) was made absolutely humongous live with some hair-raising, breath-stealing crescendos and amazing walls of beautiful sound.

By disposition, I dig the thick, sexy blues-rock style of UK headliner Band of Skulls, but I don't always love their songs. In person, however, they pack real stomp and wallop. Even if they don't quite have the songwriting ammo of peers like the Duke Spirit or the Kills, their live swag is real and their studied cool is done well enough to buy into. Quite frankly I wasn't altogether ready to be that impressed by them. But they proved to be a decent, thick slice of post-White Stripes rock.

Opening up for Langhorne Slim & the Law (Oct. 10, The Social), Virginia seven-piece symphonic folk band the Last Bison delivered an earthy but grand performance. Despite the scale however, their expressive tenor is sweet and completely guileless in a way that might suggest that these guys are really just a bunch of folk nerds. And though it once in a while borders a bit too closely to ren-faire stuff for me, they do their music with, if not invention, then at least zeal, earnestness and skill.

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